Congressional candidate Mike Pompeo issued an apology Thursday to opponent Raj Goyle, saying his campaign accidentally directed Pompeo supporters to an online blog post assailing Goyle's religion and ethnic heritage.
A Pompeo statement said his campaign office "inadvertently posted a link to a tremendously offensive blog post."
The link was posted to Pompeo's Facebook page on Wednesday and tweeted to his Twitter followers. Campaign officials deleted the social-networking links when they realized the content of the blog post.
The post referred to Goyle, a U.S.-born citizen of Indian heritage, as "just another 'turban topper' we don't need in Congress or any political office that deals with the U.S. Constitution, Christianity and the United States of America!!!"
The post was written by Bob Pinkstaff of Wichita, a retired Marine gunnery sergeant who claims the country is being invaded by Mexicans and Muslims and that only Christians should hold public office.
Pompeo and Goyle are locked in a close struggle for the 4th District congressional seat being vacated by Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Goddard.
A SurveyUSA poll commissioned by KWCH-TV showed Pompeo with a 49 percent to 42 percent lead.
Both campaigns claimed to be pleased by the result of Thursday's poll — the Pompeo camp because it showed their candidate ahead and the Goyle camp because the spread was within the poll's margin of error, plus or minus 4.1 percentage points.
Pinkstaff said he was surprised by the widespread reaction to his post, which he said he wrote after Goyle dodged a question about his religion during a radio interview.
"Like his comrade Obama, he wouldn't give an answer, only that he was not a Christian," Pinkstaff wrote. "This guy could be a Muslim, a Hindu, a Buddhist, etc., who knows, only God, the Shadow and ... Goyle knows! One thing's for sure ... Goyle is not a Christian!" the post said.
Goyle has said he was raised in the Hindu tradition of his parents and attended Christian schools. He says he believes in God and the teachings of Jesus, although he does not consider himself a member of any particular denomination.
Pinkstaff's posting ran on the website Newsvine.com, which is owned by the MSNBC cable network. The post was "removed by the Newsvine community" by Thursday evening.
In his yard, Pinkstaff has a Pompeo campaign sign and a flagpole with three flags — a POW flag, a Marine Corps flag and the American flag.
Pinkstaff has flown the American flag upside-down — the international symbol of distress — since the 2008 election of President Obama, who Pinkstaff calls an "evil Muslim communist usurper."
Pinkstaff sent a copy of his blog post to The Eagle as a letter to the editor. It was rejected for publication.
Pompeo's statement said directing his supporters to Pinkstaff's online post was "an honest mistake and our campaign truly regrets the error."
"The statements of the blogger in no way reflect my views," Pompeo said in his statement. "There is no place in campaigns or in public discourse for language of this nature. I have placed a personal call of apology and spoken to Rep. Goyle directly expressing our campaign's regret for the error."
The statement said a campaign staffer accidentally picked up the wrong link from an automated news alert.
The staff member had intended to direct traffic to an inoffensive post offering analysis of and predictions for several Midwest congressional races, the statement said.
The mistake comes at a time when the Pompeo campaign is facing complaints of running negative in the Republican primary.
Republican primary rival Sen. Jean Schodorf, R-Wichita, has been critical of Pompeo for not denouncing attack ads that ran against Schodorf in the days leading up to the Aug. 3 election.
The ads were purchased by outside political action groups and the Pompeo campaign has denied having anything to do with them.
Early Thursday, the campaign tweet to the offensive posting was featured in a story on the liberal Web site Daily Kos.
The story spread rapidly to other progressive/Democratic sites.
Goyle spokesman Robert Becker issued a statement early Thursday saying:
"His (Pompeo's) campaign published this bigoted attack online under the heading 'here's a good read.' This goes beyond the rules of engagement in politics. This violates the principles and core values of Kansans."
Following Pompeo's statement, Becker said Goyle accepted Pompeo's apology.
"They both sort of hung up with an agreement that this sort of bigotry should not be a part of the dialog," Becker said.